Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Author
DavidShapard
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎05-24-2007
0 Kudos

Jane Austen and Me

[ Edited ]
The path that has taken me to writing a book about Pride and Prejudice, and being more familiar with Jane Austen’s novels than any other book, is not, I suspect, the usual one for people in my position. I never read Jane Austen when growing up; like most men, I believe, I tended to prefer non-fiction to fiction, and, within fiction, favored stories with plenty of action and a grand sweep. At college I studied politics and history, and did not take a single English course. My first engagement with Jane Austen was quite accidental. Having heard more than one mention of Pride and Prejudice during a junior year in England, knowing it to be a highly regarded novel, and having selected, for my academic studies, that period of history, I decided to try it. The words Pride and Prejudice had an attraction in themselves, for, thinking of them in a political context, I expected a novel about a dramatic clash of social classes or nationalities, in which the angry pride of one side was pitted against the bitter prejudice of the other—that, to my mind, seemed the natural formula for a great novel. It was thus a surprise and a disappointment to find myself instead reading a novel whose actions seemed to consist solely of drawing-room conversations, and whose characters were refined upper-class people, who always seemed on their best behavior. Where were the angry clashes, or the deep social and political issues? I still enjoyed the novel, finishing it quickly and appreciating the humor. But at the end I was principally glad to be able now to claim some familiarity with a famous novel and author; I formed no intention of reading further in Jane Austen.

I only altered that intention years later when, unexpectedly, several historical or philosophical books I read included admiring comments on her, and of the profound thought in her books. This made me undertake a complete reading of her works, and I was entranced, so much so that it was not long before I began rereading the novels, an unusual step for me. My entrancement even posed dangers for my work. While scrambling to finish my dissertation, on the French Enlightenment, I had picked up a battered paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice at a book sale, and found myself frequently taking time off from my writing to read it again and again, finding new brilliant subtleties every time I looked. More than once I admonished myself that this was foolish—after all, I had a looming deadline for my dissertation and needed to get back to work. But my admonishments did not always succeed, so captivated was I by the novel. Little did I imagine then that an annotated version of Pride and Prejudice, rather than an expanded version of that same dissertation, was to be my first published book.

My devoted reading also convinced me of the thorough error of my earlier assumptions and evaluation. It is true that Jane Austen does not deal explicitly with big themes or ideas in the manner of many novelists; in her there are no lengthy discussions of politics or philosophy or religion. Yet in her quiet, subtle way she deals with many of the most fundamental moral questions confronting us, and develops truly profound points about them—and all in an unobtrusive manner that never interrupts the flow of the story. Her characters rarely make dramatic proclamations, or engage in fierce clashes, but within the politic and restrained world in which they live, they reveal all the passions and perils of the human heart, anger, greed, broken hearts, bitter rivalries, as well as Pride and Prejudice. In fact, the very restricted field of her novels allows her to focus on and scrutinize those forces with a precision and astuteness found in almost no other writer. Combine this with touching romance and hilarious comedy, and her infinitely clever and ironic style, and you have a writer who can both entertain and teach us, and whom I have long come to regard as the finest novelist in the English language.

David M. Shapard

Message Edited by Bill_T on 06-01-2007 11:24 AM

Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

A bit off topic

David Shapard wrote: At college I studied politics and history, and did not take a single English course.

And isn't it a sad commentary that a college would allow a student not to take a single English course? So much for the concept of a liberal arts education.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The irony of a liberal arts education

...and what of our good friends who have had a "liberal arts education", and dined on the rich cuisine of world classics -- today find themselves career professionals who find their reading nourished by technical journals and newspapers.

The irony of it. Whereas Polytechnic institute-trained physicists, who rarely had the time or inclination to feast on Jane Austen during college, now enjoy her work very much indeed.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Frequent Contributor
sethsma05
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎05-26-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

In college I took only drama and Shakespeare courses to fulfill the English requirements, since I was a theatre major. I didn't take any other English classes until five years later, when I enrolled myself in an English course at a community college, for personal development. It's one of the best things I ever did. A new world opened up to me. I went to college to learn theatre, and that I did, but in terms of a liberal arts education, it's coming to me now when I'm ready for it.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me



sethsma05 wrote:
In college I took only drama and Shakespeare courses to fulfill the English requirements, since I was a theatre major. I didn't take any other English classes until five years later, when I enrolled myself in an English course at a community college, for personal development. It's one of the best things I ever did. A new world opened up to me. I went to college to learn theatre, and that I did, but in terms of a liberal arts education, it's coming to me now when I'm ready for it.


Two generations ago, since few if any colleges offered courses for community learners, adults thirsting for more meaning in their lives tended to find new worlds opening through the Harvard Five Foot Shelf of Books, the Great Books of the Western World series and reading program, and Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan.

Somehow adults do tend to find the great books when they are ready for them.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Contributor
drclawgirl
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

[ Edited ]
I have been reading Jane Austen books since as far back as I can remember. I have always loved the time she lived in an wrote about. And as different as society is today it is the exact same. We have the same issues when it comes to the different social statuses but it is just in a new form. It is the same today as it was then. Women are told to look for a man to marry that has a good job and comes from a good family. I think it is even more of an issue today because women today have their own careers so they tend to want a man that is at the same career level as themselves. How many times do we see a doctor marry a man working as a waiter? Times may change but human traits stay the same.

I can't wait to see what everyone has gotten out of the book.

Message Edited by drclawgirl on 06-01-200711:35 PM

Frequent Contributor
prince_alfie
Posts: 43
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

On a more practical level, I've been using Jane Austen to do a ton of matchmaking in conjunction with Henderson's The Jane Austen's Guide to Dating and P and P. Needless to say, I have gotten 13 friends married off during the past 7 years and I do like Austen's pragmatic approach to love and courtship.

So the score remains at: 13 marriage = 0 divorces.
Frequent Contributor
JesseBC
Posts: 278
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

Well, yes...though that could probably be explained more easily by class than by gender. People tend to marry other people of their own social class, just as they tend to marry people of the same race and same general level of attractiveness.

Your example only seems odd because of the implied power reversal. It would seem just as strange for a male doctor to marry a waitress because of the implied difference in social class. But it wouldn't seem strange for a male doctor to marry a woman who had never held a job at all, provided she was privileged and educated.

To the the extent that gender converges with class in this way, I'd say it's more around conflicted ideas about proper motherhood.

The "ideal" is supposed to be that women stay home with their children and occupy themselves solely with the needs and activities of their families.

But that's always been unattainable for most women, so the idea is that women should aspire to the class that will allow them to be "proper mothers," at which point that's all they should be. There's as much shame heaped on mothers who don't quit their jobs when they could afford to as there is on mothers who use day care every day because they can't afford not to.

For the last 25 years or so, this conflict has been covered up by talk of choice (i.e. supposedly whatever a woman chooses to do is a-ok), but it's a thin veneer over a very deep and longstanding class resentment that's only gotten worse as the expectations on mothers have gotten steeper (in Austen's day, a proper mother with money would have had her children in the care of a governess).

I'll be interested to see if or how Austen addresses that.

The only other Austen novel I've read is Persuasion, which I thought was terribly dull. I've heard from a number of Austen fans that many of them don't like Persuasion much either and don't think it was a good one to start off with or to judge her by. So I'd figured I'd give her another chance with her most popular novel.





drclawgirl wrote:
I have been reading Jane Austen books since as far back as I can remember. I have always loved the time she lived in an wrote about. And as different as society is today it is the exact same. We have the same issues when it comes to the different social statuses but it is just in a new form. It is the same today as it was then. Women are told to look for a man to marry that has a good job and comes from a good family. I think it is even more of an issue today because women today have their own careers so they tend to want a man that is at the same career level as themselves. How many times do we see a doctor marry a man working as a waiter? Times may change but human traits stay the same.

I can't wait to see what everyone has gotten out of the book.

Message Edited by drclawgirl on 06-01-200711:35 PM




Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

Have you read Emma?



prince_alfie wrote:
On a more practical level, I've been using Jane Austen to do a ton of matchmaking in conjunction with Henderson's The Jane Austen's Guide to Dating and P and P. Needless to say, I have gotten 13 friends married off during the past 7 years and I do like Austen's pragmatic approach to love and courtship.

So the score remains at: 13 marriage = 0 divorces.


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me


Laurel wrote:
Have you read Emma?

prince_alfie wrote:
On a more practical level, I've been using Jane Austen to do a ton of matchmaking in conjunction with Henderson's The Jane Austen's Guide to Dating and P and P. Needless to say, I have gotten 13 friends married off during the past 7 years and I do like Austen's pragmatic approach to love and courtship.

So the score remains at: 13 marriage = 0 divorces.



Ooooh, mean! Funny, but mean. :smileyhappy:
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Contributor
drclawgirl
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

JesseBC

I completely agree with you. I did not mean to infer that it was a one way street. I just meant to show that just because time passes and society evolves some things are still the same even if they take a new form. The basic underlying issues are the same. There are shows on the Discovery channel about the basic human instinct to look for the best mate to procreate with. The one show talked about attraction and how there are some basic traits in both males and females that we are unconsciously attracted to. I will see if I can find some articles on the subject if you are interested.
Frequent Contributor
JesseBC
Posts: 278
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Jane Austen and Me

I thought your example was perfect, really -- just more relevant to class than gender.

Since Austen is known for writing about the intersection of class and gender, I'm interested in how she handles them in Pride and Prejudice since I also think you're right that the basic rhetoric has changed very little despite vast changes in how it plays out on the surface.

Since sexual attraction is so idiosyncratic and culturally-bound, the evolutionary theories of it have always struck me as a bit silly and quickly tied up in contradictions. In no small part because the traits one is attracted to in theory often don't resemble the traits one is attracted to in real life.





drclawgirl wrote:
JesseBC

I completely agree with you. I did not mean to infer that it was a one way street. I just meant to show that just because time passes and society evolves some things are still the same even if they take a new form. The basic underlying issues are the same. There are shows on the Discovery channel about the basic human instinct to look for the best mate to procreate with. The one show talked about attraction and how there are some basic traits in both males and females that we are unconsciously attracted to. I will see if I can find some articles on the subject if you are interested.


Top Kudoed Authors
User Kudos Count
1
Users Online
Currently online: 4 members 692 guests
Recent logins:
Please welcome our newest community members: